My fiancé and I have lived together for a couple of years, and I’ve covered most of the finances due to his financial hardships and child support. I sold that home and we moved into another. Prior to moving, I was told that we would split the mortgage.
Since we have moved, he has a slightly better-paying job. He wants to buy a cheap truck to haul things needed for the house using money from his home sale. He still makes payments on his car, and I have yet to receive half of the mortgage payments.
We’ve had conversations about stepping up more financially and he gets frustrated. Most of the time, I’m living paycheck to paycheck and I feel drained. What’s the best way to communicate that we need to establish more healthy financial habits?
I’m not asking to be taken care of. I just want us to split our responsibilities fairly.
What do you suggest?
Make your financial conversations a regular part of your life. Just like any couple that goes to marriage counseling or has a date night to discuss what’s going right or wrong in their relationship, you should also find the time to discuss your goals — and be completely transparent with each other. In fact, this survey found that almost a third of couples believed that being honest about their finances was more important than being honest about fidelity (or infidelity).
That requires putting down your income and expenditure on a sheet of paper side by side, and establishing that you each need to have 50% of your mortgage payments every month. Ideally, this conversation should happen before you buy (or bought) a home together. If you own this home, you should endeavor to keep your mortgage account separate after you get married to avoid commingling the property, and/or until you are sure that you are both on an equal footing.
My colleague Leslie Albrecht recently wrote a “Financial Face-off” about whether it was better to keep your finances separate or share them. She cited research from the University of Michigan that tracked 230 newly married couples over two years. The results: those who had joint accounts were happier overall, but it wasn’t clear if the happiness (or trust) led them to share their accounts or whether the shared accounts led to increased happiness or trust.
In your case, one shared account for household expenses will help both of you keep track of your finances, and keep you both accountable. Approach it as a shared goal rather than one person not pulling their weight. However, if your partner does feel secure that you will make up the shortfall, it will be more difficult to do if you have a household ledger showing he is, for example, spending too much money on car payments and socializing.
“‘Approach it as a shared goal rather than one person not pulling their weight.’”
You can also enlist a financial planner to help every month or two. Here’s what I have learned from writing this column, and tackling many similar stories of couples who can’t seem to get on the same financial page: Our relationship with money is exactly that — it’s a relationship. It’s informed by personality traits and also by our upbringing. If we were brought up in an environment where money was scarce, they may be more likely to scrimp and save.
Please don’t feel like you are alone. More than half (58%) of U.S. adults said they too were living paycheck to paycheck, according to this CNBC survey conducted in partnership with market researcher Momentive. What’s more, 70% of those polled admitted to feeling stressed out about money. Rising interest rates, high prices on everything from housing to food, and the drumbeat of a looming recession are all taking their toll on people’s lives.
Some couples do get by without talking about money or sharing finances or even fighting about them. As this man told me about his history with money: “My father was not good with money management and my mother was in charge. I even had jobs when I was in high school and college during the summer. I was taught to pay my own way at a very young age. I worked in supermarkets, and when I was in college.” But not everyone gets that kind of hard lesson early.
Ultimately, you want to pay off your house, have a little fun along the way, and earn enough to afford to invest money in a 401(k) and/or an IRA. We all have big, long-term goals (a happy retirement) but those short-term dreams (staying current on your mortgage and having a nice holiday once a year, if possible) also keep us going. If your fiancé gets frustrated it may be because he is under pressure and feeling fearful about his ability to contribute.
This may be a good time for you to ask your fiancé: “How can I help? How can we make this happen together?” Finally, one cautionary note: whatever habits you form now and whatever expectations you create around money will likely stay with you into your marriage, so make sure that you have established equitable and fair financial behavior before you sign that contract. Money is the leading cause of arguments among married couples, and also one of the leading causes of divorce.
Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas.
By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.
The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.
More from Quentin Fottrell:
‘It was quite a shock’: Can I sue my sister for my father’s ashes? He died 7 months ago, but she never told me.
‘We’re very upset!’ We gave a friend $400 concert tickets and $2,000 Rangers seats, but weren’t invited to his wedding. Do we speak up?
‘It feels like a heavy burden’: My husband asked me to sell my $14,000 engagement ring to pay off our debt. Is he asking too much?
(This article is generated through the syndicated feed sources, Financetin doesn’t own any part of this article)